mukikamu

The Armchair Traveler Club

JACK KEROUAC: ON THE ROAD

Posted by mukikamu on August 11, 2008

Reading Kerouac’s On the road feels more than a duty and I was full with curiosity and enthusiasm, but I couldn’t get close to the book somehow. Maybe my anticipation was too great or my understanding of the truly American feeling of faithlessness is insufficient, probably both, but I really did struggle and felt an awful shame of doing so. It turned out that this great classic is one of the very few mandatory reads I didn’t enjoy. I consulted friends and to my surprise they confessed similar feelings. Are we too young to understand the revolutionary ideas? Have we read too many similar books?  Do we take our freedom of movement too naturally? I wonder.

   

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Posted in AMERICA, North America | Leave a Comment »

MICHAEL PALIN: NEW EUROPE

Posted by mukikamu on June 3, 2008

A book accompanying the TV series always fails to offer a sense of discovery, yet, for devoted followers like me, in Palin’s case, is a blissful sin of marketing. We all lit up when a hard copy of New Europe with Palin’s portrait on the cover landed as a present in our living room. Especially, as this time, he travels through my home region, Central and Eastern Europe.

 

I have always believed that Michael Palin must be one of the nicest people on Earth. He comes in second to David Attenborough in terms of personal heroes because he stays humble and light-hearted even in less comfortable situations. I grew up watching him show me the world, which clearly isn’t as rosy as in his documentaries, yet I am generally grateful he resists being diminutive. I have read all his books, I have seen all his travel programmes. I am definitely what you call a fan.

 

 

This historic admiration puts me in an awkward situation when trying to review his new book, because I could certainly criticize him for many things. The question is whether I want to. Someone who has given, and continues to give you joy should never be criticized. Still, I feel blind fanatism on the long run would lead to untruthful consequences, so it is with a heavy heart when I say the series have seem to have become a routine and Palin’s crew rushes through these European countries. For me, they lacked interesting, not-stereotype-like material and fail to break through the “grey” image of post-communist countries. I admit, the sights here are not always as exotic and as spectacular as elsewhere. The thrill lies more in the history of the region, but looking to the past, showing signs of the bloodshed these nations strive to put behind, is an easy way to get away with the show. I know it’s hard to go around the past, but naturally it hurts my sense of PR when the potential and interestingness of Central and Eastern Europe stays in the background.

Maybe I just have more hands-on experience with this part of the world, maybe I was over-enthusiastic. I don’t know. To top it all, being a native, I am oversensitive of course. I know I am. But you should never wait for an outsider to tell you new things about you homeland either.

 

Despite all the above, I am not the type who has a heart to take an idol to pieces. I certainly wish Michael Palin would have enjoyed his trip more, but surprisingly, he is no less likeable in my eyes. Do you happen to know when he is setting off again? 

 

 

Posted in Albania, Books, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, EUROPE, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Travelers, Turkey, Ukraine | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

MUKIKAMU PHOTOBLOG

Posted by mukikamu on May 3, 2008

Finally started the planned photoblog to colour up the blog. Completely nonsense to post pictures of the books, but keeps the hopeless bibliophile in me entertained, so enjoy!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mukikamuphotoblog

    

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JON KRAKAUER: INTO THE WILD

Posted by mukikamu on April 24, 2008

   

Now that the movie came out, reading Krakauer‘s book was inevitable to find out what the big deal about Christopher McCandless’ story is. Unfortunately I couldn’t find out. The whole media frenzy seemed to kill the essential about the adventure and about the personalness of his choice. I am sure our hero would clearly despise people trying to make a saint out of him. Plus, the book was a dissapointment. Maybe if I would have started the book thinking, that I was going to read a long National Geographic (in this case Outdoor) article, I wouldn’t have felt so cheated. Not that the writer is bad. Not that I hate biased biographies, on the contrary. However the only episode I liked was the passage about the author himself concurring an Alaskan mountain. The episode when the “followers” are depicting Chris’ trailer, is directly laughable. His machete. The belt that kept his trousers up. Really. Life of Brian. I feel sorry and can see the tragedy, but I admire those more who have actually done something astonishing (climbed a mountain or sailed the oceans) and survived.

 

Posted in Alaska, AMERICA, Books, North America, Travelers | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

DANIEL KEHLMANN: MEASURING THE WORLD

Posted by mukikamu on March 18, 2008

The reason why Daniel Kehlmann‘s novel is listed on MUKIKAMU is because it is all about exploration. In every sense. It underlies the very essential of this blog, namely that you can travel and make discoveries even if you don’t leave your room. Naturally, the book is about so much more. Refreshing in every idea it presents, the characters (famous scientists Gauss and Humboldt) are charmingly passionate geniuses and the plots are really very funny. Humboldt travels to the New World to diligently measure everything and Gauss explores the wonders of the world in his mind. There are many surprises in store. The author manages to bring the otherwise blurry and dull science world of the middle-ages to life and hints the German spirit with Latin American atmosphere. The more I think about it, the more the whole build-up of the book strikes me. The execution of the ending is structurally and literally thrilling as well as thought-provoking. A delightfully enjoyable read. No wonder this is the book that tops best seller lists in Germany.

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Posted in Books, Germany, South America | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

THOMAS RAUCAT: THE HONOURABLE PICNIC

Posted by mukikamu on March 17, 2008

Japan. Again. I guess I am hooked. The honourable picnic is a LOL funny novel and a perfect way to get an insight into Japanese thinking and way of life. Even if it’s sarcastic and scandalous. I know I am over-enthusiastic but you can’t miss this if you are interested in Japan. I laughed myself insane because of the depicted worries caused by a little boy’s hat. The characters are so incredibly funny that you forget it’s insulting. Roger Poidatz truly caused a stir at the time when his book was written (1924). He had to publish under a false name (Thomas Raucat). However, cross-cultural experiences must be handled with humour and this book is just a treat.

READ IT ONLINE IN HUNGARIAN >>

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PS.: All editions of Terebess Publishing is appealing. They have delicious travel literature, but only in Hungarian. Anybody who knows travel specialised publishing houses world-wide, leave a comment!

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Posted in ASIA, Books, Japan | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

ARTHUR KOESTLER: JAPAN

Posted by mukikamu on March 2, 2008

I know there are some harsh, intolerant and definitely not politically correct observations about the Japanese in the second volume of The Lotus and the Robot, but I still liked it . Sometimes reading an honest, no-fuss book is a breather for the mind. I felt it summed up Japan in the eyes of a confident European intellectual quite well and I was relieved to get rid of all pathos. The Japanese amaze me constantly. I see them as a nation where you never know whether certain traditions will amuse or stun and embarrass you. I am mostly amused but as I am aware that the outcome of cross-cultural encounters with the Japanese is unpredictable, I understand that they can be truly maddening for a European who lives among them. They have no street signs and arts like ikebana and gardening are too much for a rational and practical mind. Irony, humor and a taste for the grotesque is therefore essential for survival. Koestler has interesting points about Japanese history, society and politics, but fails to enlighten the philosophy of zen without a mocking.
I must note that Arthur Koestler is not a simple fellow. His life and books hint a slightly deranged mind and make him an exciting author.

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You can read it online in HUNGARIAN here>>

Posted in ASIA, Books, HUNGARIAN TRAVELERS, Japan | Leave a Comment »

EXCESS BAGGAGE

Posted by mukikamu on February 18, 2008

I am a loyal listener of Excess Baggage, BBC Radio 4’s travel programme. They feature many of today’s travel writers, some of those mentioned on MUKIKAMU like Devrla Murphy and Michael Palin. The podcast is downloadable every week.

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ORHAN PAMUK: ISTANBUL

Posted by mukikamu on February 18, 2008

Orhan Pamuk‘s book about Istanbul is an odd book on this blog, for it is not about a travel experience, but about a personal journey and the spirit of the city where Pamuk lived all his life. I must admit, I lived in Turkey for three years when I was a child, so the book brought back familiar sceneries and was thought-provoking in a peculiar way. This personal attachment made it impossible to read as a curious traveler and I clinged to those details of everyday life that brought back my own memories. I was entertained by the realisation of how exotic Istanbul sometimes seems, yet how very same lives teenagers of the ’60s led all over the world. The book also revived my own experiences about the part of Turkish soul that can not hide the hurtful disappointment caused by the fall of a majestic empire, but which is trying to cope with republicanism and westernization. Even, the obsession with fire-watching shows how the Turkish nation accepts its destiny of having to constantly rebuild from scratch. They feel weary, but -as I sometimes feel the book lacks to mention – still push forward. (If Pamuk would be acquainted with Hungarian mentality he would cheer up. Any Hungarian facing their difficulties and the ‘weltschmerz’ of a beaten history, would instantly fall into self-pity. We would declare things hopeless, before we would ever consider trying to do anything about it.) Pamuk writes extensively about various travel writers who visited Istanbul in the past and shaped the city’s image, as well as of his much admired, fellow Istanbul-based writers. The volume is therefore a uniquely mutant book that mixes personal memories with essays about the history and literary heritage of the city. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention; Istanbul is a book of a Nobel prize winner. Not that it makes any difference, but there are some who care for marketing.

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Posted in ASIA, Books, EUROPE, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

GRAHAM GREENE: TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT

Posted by mukikamu on December 20, 2007

I re-read Travels With My Aunt. Such a crazy piece, really it is. It reminded me of the books that started me on armchair traveling long long years ago. Hemingway‘s The Sun Also Rises and Twain’s Roughin’ It also promote idle vagabonding and mention no obstacles whatsoever. I was naturally instantly hooked on the high-life, luxurious hotels and country motoring. Seas of champagne.

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Greene is one of my favourite writers anyway.  He is so basic, it feels awkward to give an introduction. He has written many travel related books (Journey without maps, Lawless road, etc…) and most of his novels are also set in faraway lands. If you care for readable novels with a touch of wanderlust any of his books is a treat. I have read Our Man in Havana, The Honorary Consul, The Quiet American, The End of the Affair, The Human Factor and The Heart of the Matter before, but as far as I am concerned, all can be re-read anytime. Greene’s novels and short stories truly take you around the world. From Saigon to Havana. 

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Posted in Argentina, Books, England, France, Italy, Paraguay, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »